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One Shadow on the Wall

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  167 ratings  ·  47 reviews
An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father.

Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: ke
ebook, 296 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Leah Henderson Hi,
Thanks for reaching out to me. Sorry you haven't been able to find all the information you are looking for. For me, this book is for anyone who lo…more
Thanks for reaching out to me. Sorry you haven't been able to find all the information you are looking for. For me, this book is for anyone who loves rooting for the underdog, exploring new cultures and settings, and cheering for unlikely friendships. ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL is the story of newly orphaned Mor Fall and his two younger sisters trying to figure out their next steps in the world after their father's death. It is set in contemporary Senegal. I hope this, along with the Goodreads or Amazon info on the book, will help give you a better idea of what it is about. If not, I'm always happy to try and answer any other questions you might have about the novel. Again, thank you for your question.(less)

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 ·  167 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Joanne O'Sullivan
This deeply immersive novel takes the reader into a life that few ever see: the life of street kids in Senegal. Mor is an orphan who is visited by the spirits of his deceased parents at moments of need. The summer after his father dies in an accident, he tries to prove to his aunt that he can take care of his two little sisters on his own. As Mor struggles to make any income possible, he is taken under the wing of Demba, a fisherman with a mystical persona who the village people think is crazy. ...more
Alexandra Ott
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a poignant and beautiful story! The writing is so immersive and captivating that I couldn't put it down. I absolutely adored Mor, his family, and his community. An absolute must-read! ...more
Ann Schwarz
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
A beautiful and sometimes lyrical middle grade story set in a culture and place rarely seen in the US for this age group. Most books I've seen or read that are set in Africa are geared toward younger readers and are picture books. While that is lovely, this novel gives readers a chance to fully immerse themselves in the setting and conflict in a deeper way because the story format is longer and able to be fleshed out more for a more mature audience. Even though the setting is different than most ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yea! Here is a loud hoorah for adolescent literature - really heartfelt and well-done adolescent literature. Five cheers. I wish I knew how I happened across this novel. I don't remember but how ironic that I saw someone else with exactly the same book in hand as I was ushering at a symphony performance one evening. Small world. I asked her what she thought and she replied, "The writing is exquisite. I am there in this story." I agree.

Reminiscent to me of other strong adolescent characters such
Katy Yocom
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't set out to read this book in one sitting, but I ended up doing just that. The story quickly drew me into the world of Mor and his sisters and their struggle to stay together after being orphaned. Endangered by a gang of tough boys, Mor must keep his family safe with his own quick wits, the kindness of caring adults, and the reassurance that his parents' love will always be with him. This is a book that will expand young readers' understanding of the world and how to navigate it. The aut ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book is simply stunning! I was pulled right in by Mor's voice--so tender and true--and by the precise (sometimes beautiful, sometimes appropriately ugly) details. This author did her work. Mor's impossible predicament made me ache for him and wonder which path he'd choose. Shoutout to his sister, Amina, whose provided a sharp-eyed counterpoint to the more compulsive, emotionally driven Mor. Their love for each other and the tug of their differing points of view was so real and one of m ...more
Wendy MacKnight
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads
It is rarely that I read a book that transports me from day to day world. One Shadow on the Wall did that for me. Set in Senegal, it is the story of Mor, who has sworn not only to keep his sisters with him after their last parent dies, but to earn enough money to support them and to pay his sister Amina's tuition at her dream school. But the world wants to knock Mor down, just as it has knocked the hopes and dreams of other similar boys. This book is thrilling and heartbreaking and inspiring, an ...more
Ali Standish
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book really made its Senegalese setting come to life for me. Henderson creates a community that feels both harrowing and beautiful, but above all, by the end of the book, she makes this distant place feel familiar. I was so taken by the subtlety and rhythm of the language, and Mor completely stole my heart. I cheered for him all the way through, though I truly could not anticipate how the author was going to resolve his conflicts, which kept me on the edge of my seat. But Henderson pulls th ...more
Mary Lee
The setting might be foreign to American readers, but the themes are real -- family, friends, bullies, responsibility, acceptance, a wise elder, the need to prove your worth, hard choices, making your parents proud.

The book was a little slow at the beginning for me, but once I was hooked, I couldn't put it down.
Corabel Shofner
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: swanky-17s
One Shadow on the Wall is a sophisticated heartfelt story. Don't miss it. I want to read about Mor again, slowly. ...more
Susan Connell Biggs
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-lit
When I opened the first pages of Henderson's 450 page novel, I never expected to finish it in one sitting. I was especially impressed by the way the author was able to make her characters so fallible, so human. It truly is a captivating and compelling read. I found myself bargaining with myself as I read, "Just one more chapter." But, I couldn't stop. I wanted to stay in this world forever. I needed to make sure the characters were okay. The characters, Mor and his sisters, continue to visit me ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I am always keen on discovering new kidlit titles with an African setting and was excited to discover this story set in Senegal. While the book has a lot going for it - portraying what life can look like for children in Senegal, talking about the importance of extended family, in fact the community, to look out for each other, highlighting the plight of the many street children who live under deplorable conditions in Senegal, sharing an inspirational message to persevere, no matter how hard the ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book easily transported me to the dirt streets of Senegal. This poignant story of a boy named Mor and his sisters was beautifully written. It's nice to see more multicultural books on the shelves in our libraries. Mor and his sisters are orphans after their father dies in the opening scene of the book. His aunt comes from the city to take them away and split them up. Mor convinces her that he can take care of his sisters by himself. He wants to prove to her that he can do it even though he' ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part realistic, part survival, lots of pain, grit, determination, growing courage.

BOOK TALK: Mor had made a promise to his father before he died: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost immediately that promise seems impossible to keep. Their aunt from the big city wants to send each of them to different homes. The kids are given a couple months to make it on their own as a trial. Mor keeps hitting roadblocks in his efforts to take care of his sisters and perhaps the biggest
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is such a well-written, lyrical story (with a little bit of magic realism!) about an 11 year old Senegalese orphan named Mor. Mor wants to prove to his Aunt that he can care for his sisters and live independently, but he struggles to avoid the attention of a local gang of boys. Each day brings a new challenge and for every step forward, Mor has to deal with a setback. Which makes this book perfect for middle schoolers. Amazon states that it's for kids ages 8-12, but I think 11-14 is a bette ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written and an emotionally intense, vivid story. I loved the way the book showcases the world of small-town Senegal and offers a window into Mor's life. Though the copy says it has elements of magical realism, I think what struck me was how the book captured what is magical about life and about Mor's everyday experience, even as he is struggling to support his family as an orphaned 11-year-old. It is so powerful, and I was completely swept up in the story. ...more
One of the best books I've read this year. Leah Henderson's debut novel is simply captivating. A beautifully written tale of a young boy in Senegal who is determined to keep his family together - despite the very real dangers that come his way. Young Mor is faced with one tough decision after another, but with the help of his neighbors, his friends, and his family, Mor finds the will to not only survive, but to thrive. A gorgeous debut that is a must for every school and library collection. ...more
Beth Schmelzer
I am so glad I finished reading Leah's debut novel! It took me a few months to put down other children's novels, only because I usually read contemporary or mystery novels.
At first I couldn't relate to the supernatural appearances of the main character's parents,but I grew to love the lessons he learned from each of his relatives and how self-reliant he was. Thank you, Leah, for sharing 11 year old Mor's story with your readers. I cannot wait to see what is on your writing journey next.
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
S.F. Henson
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read all year. Mor's story is simultaneously sad and uplifting. Excellent writing, unique setting, beautiful storytelling. This is a modern classic. I loved everything about this book and the Fall family's journey. My only problem with this book is that it had to end. A must-read! ...more
Linda Mitchell
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson. What a gorgeous story. It's middle grade, beautifully crafted, loveable characters and....set in modern Senegal....I have REALLY needed some stories set in West Africa in my middle school library. In a world in need of diverse books, this novel really suits this need. I highly recommend this one! ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mor’s father has died, leaving the eleven-year-old the responsibility of providing for his two younger sisters. Mor’s small Senegalese village provides support, but there are few opportunities to earn money. Circumstances become even more dire when Mor finds himself targeted by a gang. Throughout the struggle to survive, the spirit of Mor’s father imparts inspiration, while a reclusive fisherman provides guidance and wisdom allowing hope to blossom.
In the beginning themes of grief overshadow the
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I first started reading this book, I had to look up where Senegal was in Africa ! Leah Henderson blends the story of young Mor and his sisters with the day to day life in the small villages of Senegal. A beautifully written story of love, loss, friendship, struggle, emotional turmoils and finally the joy of success. A must read of 11-12 year olds and teens.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite YA books about a place I hold so dear to my heart - West Africa. Nearly 400 pages immersed me into my village during Peace Corps. Extra thanks to the author who grounded this story in a true experience of many young men sent away from homes to attend schools in the big cities. A must read!
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Middle school age book about survival and street gangs in Senegal. Mor, an orphaned boy, is trying to keep his family together while dealing with bullying and street gangs violence/pressure. Sad to learn from author's note that this scenario is not all that uncommon. ...more
I loved the ride into daily life in Senegal. I'm not sure what younger readers would make of the plot, especially the visits from the boy's deceased parents-not creepy, just an unusual thread. Perhaps that is part of the window into a life and culture so different from my norm. ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s, africa
Thoroughly engaging story. I loved the main character, Mor, so much. This is a story of courage, determination, and the power of one. Not only in one’s ability to overcome obstacles, but also the power of one having a positive impact on someone else. If I could, I’d give 4.5 stars.
Molly Dettmann
I love Mor. What a sweet character! I liked this story, but felt it was drawn out and a little didactic in parts that might make it a hard sell for most readers. Still a worthy addition for elementary libraries. Reminded me of Goldenboy by Tara Sullivan just a little.
Jill Diamond
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One Shadow on the Wall is a beautifully written book that tells a powerful and superbly-crafted story. Readers will be entranced by Mor's journey and drawn into the lovely prose and Senegalese setting. A middle grade must! ...more
Heidi Busch
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
I had the privilege of meeting the author of this book and learning the back story of Mor and his sisters. I loved the way she allowed the possibility of Mor to be a “real” child to exist through this story by allowing to be both good and not so good. An excellent book for middle school readers.
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Leah has always loved getting lost in stories. When she is not scribbling down her characters’ adventures, she is off on her own, exploring new spaces and places around the world.

Leah received her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University and currently calls Washington D.C. home.

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